Divorce notice unveils $58K alleged embezzlement by bookkeeper of family-owned business in St. George

In this 2020 stock image of St. George Police Patrol Vehicle taken in St. George, Utah, Jan. 29, 2020 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Charges have been filed against a local woman who allegedly embezzled more than $58,000 from her employer – a family-owned construction business in St. George.

File photo by Unsplash, St. George News

The investigation that led to the arrest began on March 11, when officers were called in to follow up on a theft report that took place at a construction company in St. George.

Arriving at the business, officers were told that an employee of the company, identified as 31-year-old Stephanie Black, had allegedly stolen a significant amount of money from the business while working as the part-time bookkeeper, according to court documents filed in support of the arrest.

One of the company managers reportedly told police that Black had worked for the family-owned business for four years and was married to one of the managers. During the interview, officers also learned there was no sign of any trouble until the suspect advised she was in the process of filing for divorce, at which point she was asked to leave the position and turn over all of the company’s financial records.

According to interviews conducted by police, the suspect did not initially comply with the request nor did she grant any access to the records, but “eventually she handed everything over,” the detective noted in the report.

A review of the financial records revealed there were 14 checks made out to a business named Express Tap that were allegedly written by the suspect without the authorization of the company. Moreover, no one at the construction company had any knowledge of the express business nor did they know why the construction company would be making payments to them.

File photo for illustrative purposes only by Andrey Popov/iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

As the internal investigation continued, the company found a letter from Chase Bank along with a bank statement issued in February belonging to an account under the name of “Stephanie Black DBA Express Tap,” the report states. The bank statement also showed the account was nearly $100 overdrawn.

When asked, the company reported that the suspect told them she had set up the account for tax payments.

A review of the financial records revealed that 14 checks written to Express Tap had been deposited into the account starting in January 2020, and those deposits continued through the end of the year. The total amount of the checks came to more than $58,250.

The bank statements also revealed the funds were being used to make cash withdrawals as well as various purchases, all of which appeared to be for personal use, the officer wrote, including purchases through Amazon, Paypal, Wal-Mart and a series of grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations, among others.

Officers also reviewed tax statements showing that the total amount of taxes paid by the company through that same time period amounted to less than $5,000, calling into dispute the suspect’s claim the account was set up to make tax payments. If that were true, the officer noted, then the suspect deposited $53,600 more than what was needed to make those payments.

A review of the checks also revealed the owner’s name on the signature line of each check, but when the drafts were showed to the owner he denied ever signing them and said he had not authorized them, the report states. Further, the signature on each of the checks in question did not match the signature on file for the authorized signer.

Being that the checks were written, signed and deposited into the business account set up by Black authorities had reason to believe the checks were forged.

On April 1, Black was arrested and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility. Officers submitted multiple charges to the Washington County Attorney’s Office for review, including second-degree theft for the amount allegedly embezzled during the scheme, as well as seven third-degree felony counts of forgery — charges that were filed the following day.

The suspect was released shortly after her arrest and is scheduled to make an initial appearance in 5th District Court April 13.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained. 

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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